2 days in Metropolitan Manila

People I meet going to the Philippines on their way to the beach ask me what’s worthwhile experiencing in Metro-Manila, where to go, what to eat, where to stay. Metro-Manila often gets put-off by travel websites as a city that’s too miserable to even bother visiting, but indeed, such warnings make the French want to come even more, or so they say. And what’s there not to like about France and the French?

As the densest city in the world (number 1-wiki it), Metro-Manila is very much remarkable. So much that I’ll have to make a two day itinerary restriction.

Don’t have a place to crash and looking for a reliable hostel in the center of one of the most recently gentrified yet resilient up-and-coming neighbourhoods where the who’s who of society comes for a drink? Stay at Z-Hostel .

Otherwise, if you’re not quite on a budget stay at the Shangri La Fort Bonifacio or Shangri La Makati, if you stay at the prior do say hi to Gale at the High Street Lounge.

Day 1:

8am-12noonish

Grab coffee and a bite at Blocleaf Café.

Go on a bicycle tour of Intramuros in the morning with Bambike , finish the tour with a pint of local craft beer the Bambike Intramuros shop has on tap. Reflect on early days of Globalisation amidst Romanesque architecture. Least we begin to remember that the Philippine islands didn’t just fall to the hands of some colonizers who everybody from the Philippines is named after as many may mistakenly believe when I talk about my mixed heritage. The maternal French/English ‘Litton’ part of my family actually relocated to the Philippines to escape the onset of WWII. Do think twice before you meet somebody of mixed heritage and describe their surname as coming from some ‘colonizer’. The Philippines also hosted a number of Jewish refugees following the Holocaust, and Vietnamese during the Viet Nam war. A little history lesson. My Grandfather could give you a much more expansive one.

12noonish to 2pm

Have lunch at Barbara’s, or skip out on lunch and get churros con chocolaté at the Bayleaf Hotel Intramuros . Check-out the view from the roof-top. Stop for souvenirs at The Manila Collectible in Intramuros. Say hi to Virgie.

Go back to your accommodation. Take a swim and a siesta, a nap.

Or check out the National Museum near intramuros, or the Ayala Museum back in Makati.

If you’re looking for stylish tropical garb stop by Tropa Store.

This should take you to just about sunset time.

Go for sunset cocktails on the rooftop of the Raffles hotel at Mirèo Terrace .

Or if yoga is your thing, take a class at YogaHive in Salcedo Village. Try a class with Chloe or Quino.

7pm-ish- bedtime

Pop by Batala Bar in Makati for another drink and dinner. It’s solar powered and everything’s local, check out their crafty retail space too. Try to get there in time for the complimentary 8:30pm bamboo-infused lambanog shot.

If you’re staying in Fort Bonifacio and don’t want to spend too much time stuck in traffic at this hour, grab dinner at Manam or Abé , and a drink at the recently opened Coconut Club.  You could continue barhopping in Fort Bonifacio to Chotto Matte and Las Flores and make your way to Poblacion. But if you’re not feeling the wannabe New York or Singapore vibes of Fort Bonifacio just pop over straight to Poblacion.

Check-out Alamat, Tambai, Dulo, and if you’re really feeling social check out this bar under Pura Vida (its name I can’t currently recall). You won’t be lost for choice in Poblacion.

If it ends up being 4am and you’re feeling a bit peckish and want legitimate Korean food, eat at Mansun, or get the best rice porridge from Go-To Monster —your stomach will be very happy, your wallet still full too.

Day 2:

8am to 12noonish

If it’s a Saturday, check-out the Salcedo Market for a plethora of local bites.

If it’s Sunday, check-out the Legazpi Sunday Market.

If it’s neither Saturday nor Sunday, check-out Manila’s Chinatown, the first ‘Chinatown’ in the world. Wear a hat. Bring a reusable shopping bag incase you want to buy some local lacatan bananas.

12noonish to dinner

Make your way to the Alley at Karrivin. Check out the well curated contemporary art gallery ArtInformal. Explore the shops at rest of the Alley and have an early dinner at Toyo Eatery (they’re closed on Sunday’s and Monday’s however). You could also try Romulo Cafe. Or if you’re feeling vegetarian, Corner Tree Cafe— Ariana Grande eats there when she’s on tour.

Or if you’re looking for some of the best pasta in South East Asia, have dinner at La Nuova Pasteleria in San Antonio Plaza. Try the spinach ravioli. It hasn’t changed since I was 5 years old.

After dinner

If it’s Thursday and you want to dance to electronic beats with the fun artsy crowd, check out XXXX on Chino Roces.  If you’re feeling gay and pop go to Nectar in Fort Bonifacio.

Otherwise go back to Poblacion or Batala Bar for a pint or two, or stop by a grocery for some local fare and stay in and read a book , and rest + prepare for your travels the next day.

Keep an open mind and enjoy your travels.

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Roman Romance

19h. Hop off the motorino and park properly. An aperitivo with my dear friend Eliza by the river Tevere at Freni. It’s always busy at this spot, it’s where all the artsy youthful people go, apparently.

Order drinks, something with tequila in it (the only alcohol that’s an upper, not a downer, you know?), I’ll go outside and find a table first (hopefully get one by the flame lamp). Nope, no flame lamp. Drinks arrive and find us, we take turns getting food at the buffet. Fresh salads, pasta, breads, cinnamon apples. Aside from the flimsy plastic forks you can’t quite eat with, cozy.

Conversation with Eliza is deep, and meaningful, of course, but I notice someone a couple of times from the corner of my eye enter the space. Tall, dark, slim sharp features, curious gentle eyes, long curly hair, great black wool coat, worn leather boots, and a simple tote bag from some art exhibit. Alone? Or waiting for someone. He orders at the bar. One hour later he still seems to be alone. Or still waiting.

‘Why don’t you go talk to him?’, Eliza says. ‘I’ll go inside warm up, and get another drink, go talk to him!’.

Okay, I’m officially on my own now, no Eliza to push me any further or make something happen.

Standing in a field of glowing people, drinking, smoking, having a good time amidst the flame lamps and polished cobblestones by the Tiber. The moon still bright from being full less than three days ago. I’m alone, yet not alone, observing.

What kinds of shoes are most of the women wearing? Leather. Black leather. Oh I see a Falabella bag. Boots with heels. It’s chilly. Is everyone casually flirting with everyone else? I start thinking about what brought me here to this moment. How did I get here. It’s such a beautiful evening. Oh, I’m so lucky.

I catch a soft gaze upon me. OK so there must be some reciprocal interest. He gets up from a seated position on a cobblestone ledge overlooking another part of Trastevere. Goes in to get another drink. I’ve been outside for at least 30 minutes. I go inside too and check-in with Eliza. Follow him back outside. A mix of high strung curiosity, and guilt for Eliza waiting for me, yet not having made any moves. I have to say something.

Outside. Back on the cobblestone ledge again. Still alone. Drinking a golden beer out of a glass goblet. The occasional glance. We’ve had eye contact at least a couple of times at this point.

There’s space open to his right on the cobblestone ledge. I place myself there, but still leave enough room for 2 people in between us, of course. I peer out into the crowd, observing, and sensing what next to do. I take a sip of wine.

Scusa…’ 

A couple asks if I could scoot down right next to him to give them space to sit. Perhaps I knew this would happen, perhaps I didn’t. Why didn’t they sit in between us? Oh the ways of the world. I glance up at him to make sure I’m not intruding, he smiles. The couple absorbed in their own conversation scootches in closer. I’m pretty much rubbing shoulders with him now, making the need to strike up a conversation unavoidable, seeing that neither of us is talking to anyone really.

Stai aspettando qualcuno?’ I ask .

He says he isn’t waiting for anyone. His name is Fuad. 26. Persian architect (that explains most of it). He lives in Venice, but came down to Rome for work.

He said he was watching me earlier thinking, ‘This guy is like me, someone who just enjoys observing in solitude’, and opened up a kind smile.

Our minds were lubricated enough at this point in the evening after at least 3 hours of having arrived. 22h. He’d already pulled out the intellectual card.

Secondo te, qual’è la ragione della vita?’, according to you, what’s the meaning of life, I asked.

Amare, e sapere.’, to love, and to know, he said.

A clear answer given without any hesitation. Definitely premeditated.

‘Qual’è la più importante?’, which is the more important, I asked

Amare.’, to love, he said.

And after a conversation that lasted a good 40 minutes discussing what it really means to love and what it really means to know, raising thoughts from late thinkers like Debord and Heraclitus, I attempted to reveal where this conversation may end.

Torno a Venezia domani mattina’, I’m going back to Venice tomorrow morning, he said.

A che ora?’, what time, I asked.

Alle 4, dammi il tuo numero, restiamo in contatto‘, at 4 am, give me your number, we’ll stay in touch he said.

Un baccio, and a warm goodbye.

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UNsustainable development goals

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Photo credit

 

I was a delegate at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit one year ago to discuss fashion and sustainability. Towards the end of the conference my friends and I grew frustrated at how the conference was being facilitated and the lack of novel solutions being discussed. One conference facilitator said my friend’s ideas were too radical. We ended up disobeying conference formalities and staged an unexpected protest on stage in front of thousands of fashion industry leaders. STOP! In the name of fashion.

Consistently throughout the 20th and 21st centuries we have seen a number of international conferences that aim to develop human rights and environmental stewardship. Blah blah blah. Talk about the U.N. Sustainable Development goals. Clean water for everyone? Access to nutritional food? Closed loop production systems that don’t leak toxic waste into our water systems? Did you really have to discuss that for hours on end and fly people from around the world and pick them up in BMW’s to figure that out? How was your multi-thousand dollar business class flight used to discuss how to help people who earn less than a dollar a day? Talk about UNsustainable goals. The resources to the solutions to all such issues exist, they’re just not distributed accordingly. All these conferences are often just ego-boosters, temporary moments of comfort and distractions to sedate people from actually doing something about today’s humanitarian environmental issues.

Sure perhaps these conferences bridge information gaps and people learn new things, but why are there consistently informational gaps between generations? Don’t people of different generations communicate with each other anymore? Either way, there must be a more reasonable means of communication instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a conference.

The next time I’m invited to a sustainability conference to talk about the UNsustainable development goals I am most likely going to have to pass. I’d much rather focus on actually working on sustainability projects instead of just talking about them. I’ve had enough. Time to get to work.

 

 

 

 

A place to be

 

I have been living in Manila, Philippines for the past three months now. It is my first time living in the country as a young adult with a particular identity. I don’t follow many traditions of the 21st and 20th centuries. I don’t idolize bacon. I don’t wear polyester, lycra, or nylon clothing.  I don’t like nor use shampoo. Going to the supermarket is a traumatising experience.

Before moving here to start another chapter of life I was anxious: Will I find a community of people that accepts me and nurtures my interests as a designer, artist, and struggling environmentalist? Will I be persecuted for my sexuality? Will the buildings and people inspire me, or send me constantly day-dreaming of Rome?

I just came back from an organic vegetable market and filled my fridge for less than 12 dollars. I have re-discovered and put together a budding cultural understanding of this land’s pre-colonial and colonial past. I met some tribal Filipinos the other day that share the same philosophy as I do on the interconnectedness between Nature and Man in our universe. Textiles are also very important to them. They make beautiful soil paintings from ground earth. I can feel comfortable going out in a skirt. No more anxieties about being myself in this place.

 

 

Why Manila ought to be the Gay Capital of Asia (from a man’s perspective)

You’ve probably read the recent news about Taiwan legalising gay marriage, and in the Philippines, a country (made of more than 7,000 islands) not too far away, it has got to start somewhere. Manila!

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ONE: You can’t say Manila without saying, MANila

TWO: Pilipinas (How Filipinos say ‘Philippines)… Pili-PINAS, wait, did you just say penis?!

THREE: You don’t have to look too hard to find gay nightlife

FOUR: These Golden Queens 

FIVE: Manila Luzon

SIX: Because it’s the home of The King of Catwalk (who I happened to message on Grindr- a gay networking app.)IMG_6897 2

SEVEN: Because unlike many other languages where the word for ‘gay’ is borrowed from English, there’s actually a native for ‘gay’ in Tagalog. It’s bakla 

EIGHT: There’s actually a Manila based LGBTQ magazine that’s pretty rad

NINE: And you still wonder why Manila should be the gay capital of Asia and gain more momentum as the next Asian capital where gay marriage ought to be legalised? Help President Duterte stay true to his word by expressing yourself, today.

boycott NESTLÉ

If you haven’t heard this news that’s already a couple of years old: Nestlé doesn’t believe that water should be a public right. Instead, it sucks up water from local water sheds and sells that water in plastic bottles.

No more kit-kats, twin-popsicles, yoghurt, chocolate… That dairy from abused hormone pumped dairy cows isn’t great for you anyways. Not to mention all that sugar. Stop the addiction. An addiction to dairy and meat is like an addiction to cigarettes.

 

What does reality mean today anyways?

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Today I read an article ‘Why reality is too strange for satire’ on the BBC.  It was very fitting for what I wanted to write.

Being a physical and mental traveller, I often have episodes where my grasp of reality shifts. Having recently moved back to the Philippines, perhaps aided by a bout of jet-lag, not to mention what has been set out by the spectacle of the news recently, I have had another strong episode of shifting reality (we could also attribute Mercury retrograde and me being a sun sign ruled by Mercury).

Like a number of conceptual artists who’ve performed songs like ‘Dream Awake’ , I’ve been recently very confused between the dream world and the world awake. Perhaps it’s because I feel so happy to be alive that my awake life often is just like a dream, whilst nightmares do appear every now and then, they don’t bother me as I can often quite easily analyse their causes, i.e. self generated anxiety.

Like having a totem from the film Inception to to grips with whether one is in the dream or awake world, when such episodes of shifting reality occur often sparked by unthinkable events like Donald Trump becoming president, I have my own little totem in the form of a tattoo. Only I know and remember what it really felt like when it was etched into my skin with a needle. 

Easily visible on my forearm, it’s an Ancient Greek concept revitalised in the 20th century by Martin Heidegger. Pronounced ‘aletheia’, it means truth, that which is unhidden, and reality.

In this most recent episode of shifting reality, I got back to grips with my own reality in realising that reality is not paying complete attention to whatever news you read and see on the screen, and having a handle on how those images may be affecting your daily actions. Knowing that those images of Trump becoming president are not my reality, or the reality. It’s just news. A manifestation of our collective consciousness. And when is there not news in today’s world? Front news headline: ‘Two leaves fell from a tree today in Central Park’. Also a manifestation of our collective consciousness. To be sane in today’s world polluted not only with industrial chemicals in rives and plastic, but also images and noise in our heads, reality begins once you look at and act in the world clearly presented around you through your own very two eyes and not from a screen, like when you go for a walk and look into the smiling (or crying) face of a baby in a pram. If you do happen to go on a walk and see Donald Trump do say hello. This has just been an electronic transmission to go on a walk and see the world through your own two eyes.

 

 

Fashion Week Discoveries

Fashion weeks are exciting, beautiful, laborious and get you thinking. Attending and working backstage at Milan, London, and Paris fashion weeks were invaluable experiences, and I met some amazing people. Exposing myself to these events made me realise however that I don’t want to invest my time to become an unpaid intern just to land a pre-existing job in an industry in need of more deliberate reformation.

By the second week I was on my way to the Ferragamo show and passed by a homeless man prostrated on the floor, seemingly unconscious or asleep with his hand sticking out as if waiting to accept help or a handful of coins- a sadly typical urban scene, I know- but I really took it to heart, and my heart told me that it didn’t make sense to continue fighting for this pre-existing spot in a largely self-absorbed industry in need of massive change. I love fashion, but aside from being the second most polluting industry in the world, spending hundreds of thousands to millions of euros on a fifteen minute show with a rocket ship that moves up and down isn’t fashionable, and shouldn’t be the future. Can someone please change the channel?

I got over the spectacle of it all and got used to walking in to and/or saying hi to people like The Sartorialist (street photographer Scott Schuman), Anna Wintour, Suzy Menkes, Anna dello Russo, Caroline Issa, Christian Louboutin, and Rihanna. They’re just people doing their jobs and being celebrated for it. Go follow your heart and do your job, in fact following your heart is your job.

 

 

Les heurtoirs de Paris

heurtoir, or in English, a door-knocker , usually adorns the street level entry doors of buildings throughout Paris, first appearing in France in the 9° century.

Intriguing they are, the slight deviations in design from this 18°century style of heurtoir, popular throughout paris.